The ‘Care’ Racket in Wales

Let me make it clear at the outset what kind of ‘care’ I’m talking about. This is not the ‘care’ that involves helping old dears out of bed, making them breakfast, and listening – yet again – to how Uncle Arthur single-handedly won the Boer War. No, this is an entirely different kind of ‘caring’, one that most people are only vaguely aware of.

In addition, this post pulls together a few threads that might otherwise be left as loose ends. For example, in my enquiries into the housing associations operating in the south west I’ve come across puzzling references to the ‘Ceredigion Care Society’ or the ‘Pembrokeshire Care Society’, as you might expect, these references provided an incentive to make further enquiries,

Then there was the reliable source who told me last year about young tearaways turning up in Cardigan, with families in tow, being placed in temporary accommodation before moving on to something more permanent, provided by housing associations or private landlords. Few if any of these arrivals seemed to have pre-existing connections to Ceredigion, or to any other part of Wales.

Finally we have the housing crisis in Aberystwyth I referred to in this recent post. No, this is not a housing shortage, this is the exact opposite: student flats built at the very time the number of students applying to Aberystwyth University went into sharp decline, coupled with houses of multiple occupation in the town – many owned by men of fraternal tendencies – standing empty or under-occupied for the same lack of bright-eyed young things thirsting for knowledge.

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Perhaps the best way to start would be with a list of the various bodies using the ‘Care’ label that have operated in Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire in recent decades, some now defunct and one in the process of being wound up. After the name (containing link to website) you’ll see their Charity Commission number (with link to relevant CC page); date they were formed (and, where applicable, wound up); their company number (if applicable, also with link) and the date of Incorporation; finally, a link to the most recent available accounts.

  • The Dyfed Care Society, 506768, 22.09.1977 – 09.03.2000.
  • The Carmarthen Care Society, 508420, 05.02.1979 – 25.10.2001.
  • The Pembrokeshire Care Society (1), 508848, 18.06.1979 – 16.12.1996. 

The Cardiganshire / Ceredigion operation was clearly the earliest and its original remit was:

“1. The relief of poverty, the relief of sickness and the advancement of education and training amongst: A) Persons who have suffered a legal restriction on their liberty in the community, or any penal establishment or institution B) The families and descendants of such persons described in A) above C) Persons in need, hardship or distress.

2. The advancement of public education concerning all aspects of crime prevention.”

The Dyfed, Carmarthen and original Pembrokeshire societies used almost exactly the same wording. Telling us they were linked bodies helping ex-criminals . . . of whom there must be hundreds every year returning to the mean streets and gang life of Ystrad Meurig, Marloes and Ponterwyd.

Though I’m intrigued by the use of the word “descendants”. Does this mean that you could have demanded help if your great-great-great-great-grandfather was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread? I also love the term “Persons who have suffered a legal restriction on their liberty”, there are just so many euphemisms for being banged up.

The Constitution for the Ceredigion Care Society seems to have been changed (24.09.1999) and under ‘Activities’ on its Charity Commission page it now says, “PROVIDES HUMAN RESOURCES PROVIDES HOUSING SUPPORT PROVIDE INCREASED HOUSING OPTIONS TO THOSE THREATENED WITH HOMELESSNESS ADVOCACY”. I don’t know whether this is just unpunctuated or an attempt at shouted stream of consciousness. Either way, this change of emphasis brings it into line with the Pembrokeshire Care Society. The concern is no longer for ex-cons but the ‘homeless’ and others it can be claimed are in need of accommodation.

As I’ve said, the Ceredigion Care Society is currently being wound up in favour of  Cymdeithas Gofal The Care Society. Though this successor body is no longer restricted to Ceredigion as it claims to be operating in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and even Powys.

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As you will have noticed above, the Pembrokeshire Care Society and Cymdeithas Gofal are also limited companies, with the trustees serving as directors. The Pembrokeshire outfit is headquartered in Haverfordwest, conveniently near to Pembrokeshire Housing. Here’s a link to the most recent Annual Return received by Companies House, listing the eight current directors. (While the Companies House form offers the option of giving Welsh as one’s nationality, all describe themselves as ‘British’.)

And here’s the latest Annual Return for Cymdeithas Gofal, based at 18 Chalybeate Street in Aberystwyth, but also owning or leasing 26 Cambrian Street (night shelter) and 21 Terrace Road. (The situation at Cymdeithas Gofal is not much better, with a distinctly English-looking board saved by what could be seen as a token Welshman in the form of Y Parchedig Cen Llwyd.)

And here are the most recent accounts. For Cymdeithas Gofal and Pembrokeshire Care Society. So what do they tell us? Let’s look at Pembrokeshire first. With charity accounts I tend to cut to the chase to see a) where the money comes from, and b) where it goes.

We see that £308,279 came from the ‘Supporting People Programme‘ administered by the ‘Welsh’ Government. It’s worth remembering that ‘vulnerable people’ as used in this context can mean “persons who have suffered a legal restriction on their liberty”, drug addicts, alcoholics, those who find themselves ‘homeless’ after being evicted from their previous home, and others you might not want as neighbours.

Update 22:48: I am indebted to Jacqui Thompson for guiding me to this report on the shambles in administering the Supporting People grant in neighbouring Carmarthenshire.

The other major source of income – accounting for £224,020 – is listed as “Advice, Pathway Letting & Bond Scheme”, which was new to me. However, I soon found Pathway Lettings . . . “Part of Pembrokeshire Care Society”!

Pathway Lettings

Seeing as this is ‘Welsh’ Government funding the next stop was obviously the website for that shower, where I found no reference to Pathway Lettings. Which was all very confusing until I scrolled further down in the accounts and found (top of page 15) a reference to ‘WG PATH’, clearly a reference to something, again linking to the ‘Welsh’ Government, but what, exactly?

PATH

Googling ‘PATH homelessness’ took me first across the Atlantic, where it is the acronym for Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness, a federal programme designed to help those who are homeless and suffer severe mental issues. This seemed to fit the bill, but to confuse the picture the Pembrokeshire Care Society has in the past been known by the acronyms PASH and PATH, explained in the panel below.

Pembrokeshire Path

So what exactly is Pembrokeshire Action for The (sic) Homeless? Googling the name takes us straight to the Pembrokeshire Care Society. So despite the hype about a ‘forum’ it’s little more than another name for the Pembrokeshire Care Society.

Then it struck me that much of the funding involved here could be in the form of the “Bond Scheme” referred to, and sure enough, under the ‘Services‘ tab on the Pembrokeshire Care website I found this.

Bond certificate

And on the Pathway Lettings Home page you’ll find this, which at least acknowledges the support of the ‘Welsh’ Government.

Pembrokeshire bond scheme

All of which poses a number of questions:

  • How much homelessness is there in Pembrokeshire to justify this funding?
  • Are there figures available on homelessness in Pembrokeshire from a body independent of the Pembrokeshire Care Society?
  • Isn’t there an incentive for organisations being funded to combat homeless (or anything else) to exaggerate the scale of the problem in order to secure more funding?
  • In pursuit of that objective an obvious route to more funding is to ‘import’ homeless people from outside of Wales. Were this to be happening, what response – if any – could we expect from the ‘Welsh’ Government?
  • Why is the ‘Welsh’ Government giving funding to a “Social Lettings Agency”, Pathway Lettings, rather than to the Pembrokeshire Care Society? Is it to disguise the ultimate destination of the money? If not, why are we paying for an extra and unnecessary layer of bureaucracy? Or is the ‘Welsh’ Government funding the Pembrokeshire Care Society’s empire building?
  • Why can’t we have a body independent of the ‘Welsh’ Government and the Notional Assembly to monitor how public funding is spent in Wales?

Just one final thing that caught my eye in the Pembrokeshire Care Society accounts, under the heading ‘Designated Funds’ (page 19), was the figure of £100,000 for ‘Senior Management Succession Planning’. What the hell is that about!

Reassuring, I suppose, in that it suggests that if there’s that much money available for such a purpose then the homelessness situation in Pembrokeshire can’t be that bad.

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Moving on now to the accounts for the ever-expanding Cymdeithas Gofal The Care Society. As with Pembrokeshire Care, we see that over half of the money received is spent on salaries and pensions, a reminder that charities like this provide good jobs for those ‘on the inside’ and those they know.

The Cymdeithas Gofal accounts were certainly easier to follow than the Pembrokeshire Care accounts, and different in many ways. For example, the Bond Scheme accounts for only a very small proportion of the income and I was initially surprised to see no reference to the Supporting People Programme that is Pembrokeshire Care’s most valuable source of income. (I also found it odd, five years after the 2011 referendum, to see Cymdeithas Gofal, despite its Welsh pretensions, still referring to the ‘Welsh Assembly Government’.)

Then I saw the entry ‘Ceredigion County Council – supporting’. I went to the council website for confirmation. So why is this funding administered on behalf of the ‘Welsh’ Government by the local authority in Ceredigion but given direct to the charity in Pembrokeshire?

Cymdeitas Gofal Incoming Resources

In fairness, Cymdeithas Gofal does raise some of its own money. Of its total income of £1,152,457 for y/e 31.03.2015, as shown in the panel below (from page 12 of the accounts) £427,898 is not in the form of direct grant funding. After the various grants, totalling £724,559, the most rewarding income stream is ‘Rents receivable’. This is, presumably, rents received for accommodation in the buildings Cymdeithas Gofal has bought, with public funding? If so, who holds the deeds on these properties, and if they aren’t in public ownership, shouldn’t they be?

Cymdeithas Gofal Incoming Total

One major source of funding we did not encounter in Pembrokeshire is the £175,408 ‘Welsh Assembly Government S180 Night Shelter Funding. (This page provides a link to further information on S180.) As I’ve mentioned above, this night shelter is at 26 Cambrian Street. Though if it’s been running since 2002 – as this clip from the Cambrian News tells us – why did the ‘Welsh’ Government need to dish out 175 grand last year, which may be more than a terraced house in the centre of Aber’ is even worth?

On the plus side, there is no six-figure sum allocated by Cymdeithas Gofal for ‘Senior Management Succession Planning’. So that’s something to be thankful for, eh?

My original thought when I approached this subject was that Cymdeithas Gofal was gradually taking over the south west, and that Pembrokeshire Care would be the next to go. But the more I’ve learnt about their relationship I now see something more  subtle and complex at work. Maybe I watch too many Mafia movies and TV series, but it looks like the rackets have been carved up in a way that satisfies both parties. (‘Yous can have construction an’ we’ll take da Teamsters. Capice?)

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Many of these Care societies’ clients of course move on to become tenants of the local housing associations, to justify more funding for housing associations, which clears up one loose end. Then there’s the young tearaways from God knows where turning up at some kind of ‘halfway house’ in Aberteifi, a border town where both organisations operate and where Cymdeithas Gofal has a £34,000 a year ‘Young Persons Project’. Finally, the housing problem in Aberystwyth, well, just think about, those empty student flats have to be filled somehow. See how it all fits neatly together!

The growth of the Third Sector in Wales was inevitable given that the only political parties (other than the Lib Dems) that have ever been in power down Cardiff docks are statist, anti-business parties. These parties – Labour and Plaid Cymru – are devoid of ideas when it comes to creating wealth, but their imagination knows no bounds when it comes to spending money. With this hostility to ‘nasty’ business comes the inevitable impulse to help those they view as the victims of a heartless capitalist system.

This ‘Throwing money around like a drunken sailor’, as my mamgu used to say (no offence intended to partying mariners), has been brought home to us this week with two cases that saw tens of millions of pounds of public money needlessly expended or lost. The first being the land deal on the outskirts of Cardiff and the other the purchase of Cardiff airport. Though in defence of the ‘Welsh’ Government let me state that the figures involved here are peanuts compared to what has been wasted in Cardiff since the dawn of devolution.

Cymdeith Gofal Objectives

The waste of public funding we have seen in Wales since 1999 could not have happened if the sham devolution we suffer had not brought together an unholy triumvirate to work against Welsh interests.

First we have the aforementioned politicians of the Left, believing that ‘helping those in need’ (even if they’ve been dumped on you) is the right thing to do; then we have the politicians of the Right, who will oppose anything that might disadvantage England, unconcerned that their position invariably disadvantages Wales; and finally, we have civil servants answering to London but ostensibly serving as ‘advisers’ to ‘Welsh’ Government ministers. (Though it should be understood that many politicians on the Left will also adopt an anti-Welsh position, and defend it by arguing that to do otherwise would be ‘narrow’, ‘insular’, ‘nationalistic’ or ‘racist’.)

The only way to change this is to reject all of the existing parties because none of them has either the capability or the will to curb the wasting of hundreds of millions of pounds every year on professional grant-grabbers – most of whom seem to originate outside of Wales – who exaggerate or import problems in order to keep themselves in cosy, well-pensioned jobs funded entirely by the Welsh public purse.

Wales needs a political revolution to overthrow the fools who fund the shysters and those who turn a blind eye because this system damages a country for which they have no real love, a country whose integration with England they will not oppose. Our country.

23 thoughts on “The ‘Care’ Racket in Wales

  1. Wynne

    Another excellent post Jac. As you are no doubt aware from the correspondence I have copied to you, I totally agree with you that public spend on social housing projects in Wales is now totally out of control, simply because the “self regulation” regime in Wales allows Housing Associations to regulate themselves. They simply need to provide Welsh Government with a few “good news” stories in their annual report to receive more funding over a future 30 year period. As you are aware, I am endeavouring to pursue these matters with the Ombudsman an others and will keep you informed of the outcome. Keep up the good work. The message will get through in the end.

    1. Though it gets depressing after a while. No only is there no oversight or monitoring of public spending from a genuinely independent body, there is neither a political opposition nor a media that is doing its job. We plough a lonely furrow, Wynne.

  2. dafis

    Ardderchog, Jac, ardderchog !

    I’m sure that many of us could see the broad brush picture but you are doing a first class job of fetching out the detail and giving insight and interpretation.

    This country has turned wasting money into a primary economic activity which is particularly perverse when one considers the shocking lack of resource that is amply evident and indeed often referred to when the begging bowl is yanked out for its frequent exercise by the shits at the Bay. Real poverty is an issue but becomes more difficult to overcome when vested interests contrive to engineer additional burdens just so they can rake off their handsome paychecks and benefits from the flow of funds.

    1. Normally when a Third World country loses money on this scale it’s down to corruption. But here it’s sheer incompetence. I suspect they could be too stupid to be corrupt.

  3. Ian Perryman

    The Welsh Government seems to be financially incompetent in general.
    Last September we were told they had lost some 11 million in grants to companies, most of whom had gone bankrupt. This year we are told they paid about 20 million over the odds for Cardiff airport and they lost about 30 million in profit on a land deal.

    1. Thank God they’ve only got ‘pocket money’ from London and Brussels to play with. Imagine these arseholes having real powers!

  4. Just a comment on the Supporting People grant which covers Carms, Pembs, Ceredigion and Powys, mentioned in your post. In Carmarthenshire last year an internal council audit was prompted after the Welsh Government withheld a a quarterly payment. The audit found that contracts had been extended without process, procurement rules were broken, some recipient bodies hadn’t been visited for over eight years, and documentation and evidence was pretty much non existent. Etc etc. The usual shambles.
    http://carmarthenplanning.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/supporting-people-grant-fundamental.html

  5. Brychan

    I am rather disappointed that the Welsh Government are assisting in the care and housing of perpetrators of domestic violence.

    By definition some individuals who are ‘homeless’ may well be on the receiving end of exclusion, restraining or non-molestation orders in the form of a civil remedy against domestic violence. Wife beaters banned from the family home or in some cases from access to or for the protection of children.

    The CPS had a consultation on this matter recently, and one of their findings was that specialist care charities like Womens Aid, Alcoholics Anonymous, Shelter etc provide a very positive contribution to resolving issues of domestic abuse, but by definition ‘general care charities’ risked (and in some instances were found to) undermine the safeguards provided by civil protection orders.

    More worrying, as Jac’s research has uncovered, these ‘generalised care charities’ have extended or amalgamated across local authority boundaries. A local authority has a statutory responsibility if children are involved and can apply themselves for such civil remedies that often include exclusion or non-contact within the authority boundary.

    If as a result of domestic violence the family home was lost or at risk, it is quite common for both the victim and perpetrator to become homeless. It would be perverse to have the same charity getting funding from the Welsh Government to care for the battered wife while at the same time using the same funding to find housing for the perpetrator. Resolving matters through the courts is an adversarial process so both sides cannot have the same legal council, but it appears the Welsh Government is funding both parties via the same charity for housing.

    It also puts the local authority in a precarious position relating to statutory obligations. It also puts Dyfed Powys Police in a spot of bother. If responding to a domestic shout then to find the contact point for both being the same agency. Where are they going to dump the thug if the lady with the black eyes is too scared to press charges? Shropshire?

    1. Brychan

      That of course is a rhetorical question. The real answer is of course, is not Shropshire but typically Aberystwyth promenade to sleep in the bandstand shelter, only to be scooped up by the same ‘care agency’ which only has the perpetrators ‘sob story’ to go on. Thus leaves existing victims and often new victims at risk. This issue is especially acute if the perpetrator is an import from England actively fleeing or due to probation placement arrives in a local authority area after a previous criminal prosecution. I wonder how many times a police officer has an asrehole in the back of the car only to be told the suspect has ‘turned over a new leaf’ by the do-gooder, who’s managed to find accommodation for the suspect without full disclosure of what previously went on. Surely it would be better for the Welsh government to channel the funding to professionals in the council instead of them having to sack proper social workers and probation officers due to ‘funding cuts”.

      1. You’ve hit on an important issue that I didn’t have time to include. In order to ‘trim’ their expenditure local authorities are farming out too much work that was done by in-house professionals to amateurs in the Third Sector, and just throwing money at them. It may be cheaper, but it’s an obvious false economy. Read what Jacqui Thompson wrote last year about the Helping People disaster in Carmarthenshire.

  6. adarynefoedd

    Single homelessness is an issue in rural areas and these services have developed to meet a definite need. Rather than focusing on crime and country hopping, in my experience, many of the clients of the crisis services have drug/alcohol problems and/or are care leavers. Rough sleeping ruins your health and eventually kills. Councils have a poor record for helping these groups, hence the involvement of voluntary organisations. It is usually not a good idea to house straight into privately rented accommodation whilst the drugs/alcohol problems are not under control. I take my hat off to the staff who work with this group especially in the hostel accommodation. They are the unsung heroes. There is too much of the smug ‘we dont have a problem in our area and these facilities only exist for problematic incomers’.

    I would agree with you Jac that the funding streams are really complicated going back to the Supporting People initiative. This was an English initiative intended to provide the additional support to tenancies required for a very large range of need. My concern is that as it unravels, and is cut many of the facilities very vulnerable people need will close or be unable to provide the extra support. A good and clear example is a woman’s refuge, they cannot be run safely without staff.

    The idea that the customers could quietly move to empty student accommodation is not sensible.

    1. Brychan

      The reason why alcoholics and drug addicts become homeless is because they’ve spent their rent money on special brew or heroin.

      Providing them with more cash directly (begging) is feeding their illness. Providing them with accommodation using public funds (even as accommodation bonds and hostel accommodation) without treating their illness is feeding that illness by proxy.

      Of course rough sleeping can kill. However, at the coroners inquest any medical practitioner has to justify any of their actions prior to death ‘to having done no harm’ and the police officers that usually have had encounters with the deceased can be criminally liable if a formal encounter or an arrest was made in the period leading to death. Social workers can also be held liable for ‘action not taken’. However, the coroner usually doesn’t require the Enlglish style establishment chucrhy do-gooders for narrative as they can only express the warm fluffy feelings they had or some religious dogma, which is not relevant to the inquiry.

      When a council runs away from their responsibility by handing over ‘problems’ to church groups, they also absolve themselves of responsibility for the more problematic sections of the community they are elected to serve. More so if the person was previously within their statutory care obligations. Feeding failure and ‘care farming’ is not something which public money should be spent on.

      There can be a very Welsh ‘religious’ dimension to dealing with homelessness and alcoholism. It was pioneered by William Harris who packed them off on his ‘dry ships’ and set up working gangs to build railway cuttings and viaducts. He was from and founded Mynwent y Crynwyr (Quakers Yard).

      Aberystwyth does not need a homeless shelter; it needs a railway line to Carmarthen. No beer in the ration but bread on the rails – Harris of Treharris. That’s where the cash highlighted by Jac should be spent.

      The homeless need the gift of independence, self respect and opportunity, A bit like Wales. The best way of tackling impoverishment is not by easing our poverty, but by leading ourselves out of it.

  7. Daley Gleephart

    I think that you’re unfair to Cymdeithas Gofal by omitting to mention its distributed infrastructures which harness mission-critical interfaces.

  8. Guy the main man

    Nice bit of research Jac. Whilst you are waiting for your pc to be repaired you may wish to take a closer look at the contractual relationships between the Ceredigion Council and the Cymdeithas Gofal and Cantref – at how much the rents are being charged and the percentage being skimmed off for management costs. Is it a coincidence that the Cymdeithas is being run by two ex housing benefit employees of the Council? The contracts with The Wallich for their “wet” (sic) hostel in Aberystwyth for poor souls from England who cannot live without their favourite tipple of white lightening cider also look interesting. Plenty of creative accounting going on! Well worth someone going along to the agm of Cymdeithas Gofal next week which is beibg held in, wait for it, the Council chamber in Aberaeron! Coincidence? A few selective FOIs to the Council regarding rent levels, service charges, and management fees, along with allocation stats on the residency backgrounds of the people being housed by the Cymdeithas Gofal, Cantref etc. The latter losts its chief executive last week with rumours that allocations are now being looked into by the Councils head of “lifestyle services” following a finding of maladministration by the Ombudsman Nick Bennett. You could not believe it!

    1. And of course Nick Bennett is former head of Community Housing Cymru, the housing associations’ umbrella body, so if he found something wrong then it must be really bad. We need to get in touch when I’m back online, hopefully now next week.

      1. Any luck with FOIs yet? The accounts show another £80k annual loss for the Care Society despite the high rent charges and inter company transfers.

        They will soon be going the same way Cantref is going – rumours this week that the interim ceo parachuted in there, Hillary Jones, from neighbouring ha Bro Myrddin has been trying to self promote herself by persuading Wales and West ha from Cardiff to bail out Cantref and give her a bigger job as head of their western poorer Welsh speaking colony. Perhaps she has been getting advice from her (x Gwalia finance director) husband? More hostels anyone? A close friend who works for Cantref tells me that there are five different bidders for Cantref and that Carms Council are now one of them as a certain Mr James is working his magic again and attempting to add Cantref to the Council’s property portfolio. Its unclear whether this has been agreed by Cabinet or full Council or is just a solo enterprise punt. Staff at Cantref are worried they may be required to move to Llanelli to work under Robin Staines. One of his managers has been given a free transfer into Cantref on secondment – or a trojan horse from what senior staff at Ceredigion Council are saying. Crys of foul, vested interest, and insider dealing are now being heard around the Aberaeron office, as they suspect a pre local govt reorganisation strike by Carms officers, whether sanctioned by councillors or not! Popcorn anyone? More to come soon, including details of the Millbay Homes bid, who have the benefit of x Cantref housing director Elin Brock Jones’s previous experience as one of the Cantref directors who bailed out to join Pembrokeshire housing association.Her successor, interim director by the name of David Hedges, and x Wales and West employee, also left early. Oh what tangled webs these people weave – but not difficult to fathom after a bit of web research on rsl websites and linkedin profiles.

        1. As for the FoI, I sent an e-mail request, which was ignored, and a reminder, which was also ignored.

          Surely Millbay Homes, as a subsidiary of Pembrokeshire Housing, wouldn’t be allowed to take over Cantref?

          All information gratefully received.

        2. What’s the story on Kevin Taylor, the interim chair, who seems to be running the show? According to his Linkedin profile he was working in the Bahamas for 26 years up until 2013. So how did he wash up in Dyffryn Teifi and who appointed him to the board of Cantref? What experience does he have a) of social housing, and b) of Wales?

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